Archive for September, 2009

Photoshop Top 40 Countdown with Deke McClelland: #29 – Liquify

Published by | Tuesday, September 29th, 2009


The Liquify filter lets you paint in distortions, so you can perform digital nips and tucks. You can slim people down, edit their posture, and make them look exactly how you want them to. Deke shows how in this week’s episode of the Photoshop Top 40 Countdown.

Four productive, demystifying AutoCAD tips from instructor Jeff Bartels

Published by | Friday, September 25th, 2009

JeffBartelsThis week, I asked instructor Jeff Bartels about his most frequently asked AutoCAD questions, and whether he had any tips that would help our subscribers demystify AutoCAD. He sent me four tips that are sure to improve any AutoCAD user’s workflow.

1. Take advantage of AutoCAD’s multiple document environment

Start by opening two AutoCAD drawings. If you press Ctrl+TAB, you can jump back and forth from one drawing to another.

Now select the View Tab of your ribbon, in the Window panel, select Tile Vertically. This will give you a nice side by side comparison of your drawings. By clicking in either window, you can work on that drawing.

But wait, there’s more: AutoCAD allows us to drag and drop geometry between drawings. Click an entity to select it, and then click (and hold) on a higlighted portion of the same entity. This copies the geometry to the cursor. Drag the geometry into the other window (and release) to copy it into the other file. Never draw anything twice! With AutoCAD, you can recycle your geometry over and over again.

2. Take advantage of your Function Keys

By pressing and holding a function key, you can temporarily enable, or disable a mode setting.

Try this: Launch the Line command, and while drawing, press (and hold) the F8 key to temporarily enable Ortho. You’re linework is now constrained to 90-degree angles until you release the F8 key.  Likewise, if you hold F10, you can enable/disable Polar Tracking. My personal favorite is F3. Holding this key will disable running object snaps, which is very helpful when placing text, or tweaking dimension locations.

To see a listing of all possible function keys, “right click” over any mode setting icon in the status bar and select DISPLAY from the menu.

3. Take advantage of the Quick Calculator

Instead of doing calculations on your hand held calculator, use the calculator built into AutoCAD.

Try this: Launch the Line command and draw a line on your screen.  Now Offset this line 5.325 units.  Let’s assume we wanted to Offset the first line again, but we wanted to place the offset “half way” between the two lines. Launch Offset. When AutoCAD asks for a distance, press Ctrl+8 to open the Quick Calculator (Note: When first opened, you may need to click the downward facing arrow button to expand the calculator). Click 5.325/2 and click = to see the answer. Now click the Apply button and notice the value has been entered at the command line. Hit the Enter key to accept, and then finish offseting your line.

Any time AutoCAD needs a numeric value, you can press Ctrl+8 to let AutoCAD do the math for you.

4. Take advantage of the Property Changer Palette

This is by far the most powerful tool in AutoCAD. Press Ctrl+1 to turn it on. With this palette, you can modify the properties of anything. Select linework, images, text, reference files, and so on, and notice you have instant access to all possible modification choices.  As a beginner, this palette should be the first place you look when you need to change something.

For more from Jeff, check out his AutoCAD courses in the Online Training Library®.

Microsoft MVP Curt Frye helps dispel the common fear of Excel’s Pivot Tables

Published by | Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

In Excel 2008 for Mac: Pivot Tables for Data Analysis, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Curt Frye helps dispel the common fear of the Pivot Table feature, demonstrating how to use this powerful tool to discover valuable business intelligence. Curt shows how to create Pivot Table reports from internal Excel data and outside data sources, use filters to focus on the most important data in the sheet, and prepare a Pivot Table report by applying formats and rules.

Photoshop Top 40 Countdown with Deke McClelland: #30 – Actions

Published by | Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

The Actions palette lets you record your work on effects in Photoshop so that you never have to do it again. Plus, you can build up complex visual effects and share them with others, as Deke demonstrates in this jaw-dropping video.

Snow Leopard favorite new feature: Effortless scanner/printer installs

Published by | Monday, September 21st, 2009

When Apple first announced at their 2008 World Wide Developers Conference that the new version of OS X would be called Snow Leopard, they included the surprising statement that Snow Leopard would have “zero new features.” Now of course, this was a bit of an exaggeration—there are enough new features to warrant my recording Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard New Features (available now!), but the point was that Snow Leopard’s main focus was under the hood, with the goal of making OS X faster, more efficient, and less bulky. Hence the the name Snow Leopard, which references the similarities of the new OS to the previous OS, Leopard.

Although the cosmetic changes are few, Snow Leopard features several enhancements to the Finder, the Dock, and to most of the built-in applications like QuickTime, iChat, Mail, and so on, but my favorite new feature so far is Snow Leopard’s greatly improved support for scanners connected directly to your Mac or on your local network.

Prior to Snow Leopard, I was locked in a never-ending battle with my moody and unpredictable network printer/scanner, which never seemed to be able to communicate consistently with my Mac. Some days it would work, some days it wouldn’t (I won’t name the brand, but let’s just say it rhymes with Pewlett Hackard). I was constantly updating and reinstalling drivers, restarting both the scanner and my Mac, and it would still only function properly occasionally.

But once I installed Snow Leopard, I was able to leave all the third-party software and drivers behind. Using Preview, which comes as part of OS X, I chose File > Import from Scanner and instantly my Mac found my scanner, installed drivers, and opened the scanning interface, from which I could select my scanning options and preferences. It just worked, and I’ve since tried it with my scanner in my home office as well with identical results. That alone was worth the $30 upgrade price to me.

And even if you don’t use scanners much these days, you’ll be happy to know that setting up a printer in Snow Leopard is just as easy. Again, you no longer have to manually install any drivers. As long as you have an internet connection, choosing File > Print will cause OS X to find your your printer and automatically install the proper drivers from the collection of pre-installed drivers included with the OS, or failing that, it will find the necessary software on the internet, download it, and install it. There’s nothing else you need to do. Of course, I haven’t personally tested every scanner/printer out there, but I’ve already experienced the ease and advantage of this feature several times when I’ve found myself in someone else’s office connected to a printer I hadn’t previously installed on my MacBook.

So if you’ve been considering upgrading to Snow Leopard and you rely on multiple scanners and printers as much as I do, I definitely recommend you make the switch. And be sure to check out my Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard New Features course in the Online Training Library®. I go into much more detail demonstrating how Snow Leopard recognizes and installs scanners and printers, and I cover lots more of what you’ll find in the latest version of Mac OS X. exclusive video training partner for Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac

Published by | Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

We’re really excited about our new partnership with Microsoft: With its release yesterday, new Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition (and upgrade) customers get training in the box. Here’s the official press release:

SEPTEMBER 16 – CARPINTERIA, CA -, the award-winning provider of online training and education for consumers, businesses and schools, today announced its collaboration with Microsoft to be the exclusive video training partner for its Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition products. Training will be included in product boxes for all purchasers of Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition and the Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition upgrade.

“We are proud to partner with Microsoft by providing in-the-box training for Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition customers,” said Lynda Weinman, co-founder of “Our goal is to help Office 2008 for Mac users to get up to speed on all the applications in this collection of top business software. Our partnership also underscores our commitment to providing high-quality video training content for a wide range of Office 2008 for Mac users.”

“Microsoft is pleased to partner with to support our Office 2008 for Mac community,” said Kurt Schmucker, Senior Evangelist for the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft. “With’s top-quality training videos included with the Business Edition and Business Edition upgrade, we know users can be productive and creative with our enhanced suite of business software and tools right out of the gate.”

The new Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition includes updated versions of Word®, Excel®, PowerPoint®, Entourage®, and much more. Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition launched on Sept. 15, 2009.

Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition users are also invited to accept a special offer from for further training in all Office 2008 for Mac software. More information is available at

Photoshop Top 40 Countdown with Deke McClelland: #31 – The Brush tool

Published by | Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

The modest brush tool is one of the deepest, most versatile tools in Photoshop. It’s not only a terrific painting tool, but it is also invaluable for masking, as Deke demonstrates in this week’s Photoshop Top 40 Countdown episode. Joomla! instructor Jen Kramer has first book due out early next year

Published by | Monday, September 14th, 2009 Joomla! instructor Jen Kramer Joomla! instructor Jen Kramer is in the midst of writing her first book.

Talented Joomla! instructor Jen Kramer is in the midst of writing her first book, entitled Joomla! Start to Finish: How to Plan, Execute, and Maintain Your Website which is available now as an pre-order. Congrats Jen!

We’ve been enjoying her blog posts and tweets that have been keeping us looped into the Joomla! world, and now her book-writing experiences. It’s a much longer process than recording a training course, and she’s doing a beautiful job of it. When I asked about the differences between book writing and video training, she had this to say:

“In a movie, I have to think carefully about a single example and the flow of one task to another. Personally, I don’t need a lot of notes—I can wax poetic about Joomla off the top of my head.

“In the book, I spend much more time explaining screens, because I can’t necessarily show how they work the way you can in a movie. There is much more to say and explain in a book, little things that I might normally talk about in a movie, or not even say, just do.

“I’m trying to make this book much more than the usual ‘click here’ type of book. So many technical books explain how to complete certain tasks, but they never explain why you’re doing what you’re doing. My movies are popular, I think, because I took the time to explain certain error messages you might get (and what you did wrong to get them), why you might want to do one thing over another, and certain ways to enhance your Joomla site that really bring value to the final product, not necessarily just because you can do them.”

For more from Jen, be sure to check out her blog and tweets.